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IPFS News Link • Precious Metals

Harder Than Gold, Faster Than Fiat

• by Nick Giambruno

In the middle of the 19th century, aluminum was more scarce and desirable than even gold.

As a result, aluminum bullion bars found a place among the national treasures of France, and aluminum jewelry became a symbol of the French aristocracy.

Aluminum, known by its atomic number 13 on the periodic table, is a ubiquitous element, yet it mainly exists intertwined in complex chemical compounds and not in its metallic state.

The complex procedure of transforming aluminum compounds into pure aluminum metal was costly, making aluminum harder to produce than gold. The aluminum price at the time reflected that.

In 1852, aluminum hovered around $37 per ounce, significantly more expensive than gold at $20.67 per ounce.

But aluminum's fate was about to take a dramatic turn towards the end of the 19th century.

A monumental discovery in 1886 made it possible to produce pure aluminum on an enormous scale at a fraction of the previous cost.

Before this groundbreaking finding, global aluminum production was a mere handful of ounces per month.

After the discovery, America's leading aluminum company manufactured 800 ounces daily. Within two decades, this company, which would later become Alcoa, made over 1.4 million ounces of aluminum daily.

The price of aluminum plummeted from a staggering $550 per pound in 1852 to a mere $12 in 1880. By the dawn of the 20th century, a pound of aluminum cost approximately 20 cents.